US Attorney General William Barr is pushing for an early antitrust complaint against Google, the New York Times reported. Citing multiple lawyers involved in investigations, the report says that some of the Department of Justice’s lawyers have argued that filing a complaint by the end of September was not ideal. The department is reportedly investigating Google’s dominance in search and advertising in two separate lines of inquiry.
The DOJ’s investigation in this matter started over a year ago, and seems to be under pressure to present a complaint in the run up to the presidential election in November. Barr has personally made pursuing Google and Big Tech’s dominance a priority.
Antitrust action against tech giants has been gaining bipartisan traction in the US. In addition to the Trump administration, the House Judiciary Committee launched an investigation of its own, as a part of which, it heard testimonies of CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook in July. While the discourse around these issues is still developing for the other three companies, Google’s global dominance in search and online advertising gives antitrust officials a lot to work with. But officials are reportedly worrying that pushing out a complaint early may jeopardise the strength of the arguments they are able to present.
A ruling in the DOJ’s favour could have seismic ramifications for the search giant, as the former is reportedly comparing its action with the landmark 1911 Standard Oil case, where the American oil company was ordered to divest itself of 33 subsidiaries, effectively shattering its dominance of over half the US market. A similar order against Google, even if not at that scale, could have global repercussions for internet businesses and users.